MotherBoard – feat. Rita Mantler, Founder and Technical Director at Telescopic.
The purpose of our ‘MotherBoard’ content series is to highlight incredible working mums within tech & data, as well as businesses that are supportive and progressive within their approach to creating more inclusive tech & data teams for women.
Bio: With over 20 years of experience in the tech sector, Rita has seen the lack of diversity within the industry first hand. It’s why she started Telescopic in 2013, a digital transformation agency on a mission to make better technology accessible. Since starting the business, she’s built a diverse female-majority team of experienced developers and technology experts. She’s also an active mentor, working to support and help promote women in tech. Like everyone on the Telescopic team, she’s also committed to helping people and the environment: Telescopic is in the process of becoming a certified B Corp, balancing profit with the impact on employees, customers, environment and the wider community.
Amber @ ADLIB: For some background information please can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Rita: I’m from Vienna, Austria and started my career in tech by going to a technical college at 14 years old. After university, I moved to London and worked as a developer in a few design agencies before starting Telescopic in 2013. I also co-founded a startup, Medixus and have a four year old.
Amber @ ADLIB: How have you managed to build a successful career, whilst also embarking on motherhood, and what challenges have you faced?
Rita: I founded a startup while running Telescopic when I got pregnant – it was terrifying. But planning well in advance and being able to hand over tasks really helped. Saying that, the UK is probably one of the most anti-kids countries in Europe. Most of the time, new dads don’t get paternity leave, so mothers lose out on career progression, while dads lose out on spending important time with their family. Childcare is also extortionate.
I was lucky. I was able to keep progressing and building the business because of the amazing people around me. I had huge support from my partner and family. And then the Telescopic team were (and still are) just so reliable and helpful. Delegation and trust is everything; having a team of people you can rely on to take care of you, and help keep the business ticking over as you navigate motherhood, is invaluable.
Amber @ ADLIB: Can you tell us a little bit about returning to work as a new mum working within the tech industry?
Rita: There’s no financial support for self-employed mothers. After giving birth, I was at my laptop while breastfeeding. I couldn’t just take a year or two to sit back and relax. Not that I wanted to, but the opportunity would have been nice. Because a lot of people would like to. Especially men! They’re all losing out on spending quality time with their little ones and really getting to know them.
Amber @ ADLIB: What do you think the government needs to do to support mums more to make it easier to balance a career and parenting?
Rita: At the minimum, the government should provide full financial support for at least nine months. Flexible childcare should also be free, and we should have equal parental leave (so mandatory parental leave for fathers). Not only do fathers deserve that time to bond with their children but mothers need breaks too and the freedom to progress in their careers. I also think all male toilets need mandatory baby changing mats for obvious reasons.
What’s more, for small and medium businesses, it’s often not possible to provide full salaries for a year, let alone for freelancers. So, the government should step in and finally give more money to self-employed mothers after birth.
Amber @ ADLIB: What do you think are the core benefits of having more mothers in tech and data teams?
Rita: Visibility is a big one. If you see mothers in tech roles, other girls will think, I can achieve this too! And mothers are really good at getting stuff done on time (because they have to). Their brains are constantly wired to manage and run another human’s complete life. As such, they’re usually the most efficient members of the team!
Amber @ ADLIB: What do you think is the best part of being a woman within the tech industry?
Rita: To be perfectly honest, I don’t want to be a ‘woman in tech’. I want to be a human in tech.
Being in tech is great because I love puzzles – solving really tricky bugs is what I enjoy. It’s great to be able to use something you enjoy to earn money. That is a massive privilege to have. It’s why I’m working alongside my team to actively help women (and anyone else who’s at a disadvantage) to break into the tech industry, if that’s what they want.
To do this, I have to be visible. This is difficult because I value my privacy. But I know it makes a difference. When I got into tech, one of my university programming tutors was a woman. I think that’s why I never really questioned whether this was a career for women as well as men. That only came later when I entered the industry and saw how male-dominated it was. I want to change this, for other women today and for future generations.
Amber @ ADLIB: What do you think companies need to do to assess and fix the gender pay gap?
Rita: First, they need to admit that there’s a problem. Then they need to fix it. But it’s often not in a company’s interest – why would they address the gender pay gap if they get the same service for less money?
So, they need to be forced into action. Make finances 100% transparent. And always set a salary range for job adverts – that should be a legal requirement. It minimises negotiation, making it easier for women who might not feel comfortable negotiating in the first place. Existing employees can then see what their role is worth too, so they can ask for a pay rise when it’s appropriate (and it usually is!).
Amber @ ADLIB: . What do you think is important for businesses to look out for so that future mums of tech can be fully supported?
Rita: Think about how you treat the dads in your team. Every dad who is off on paternity leave supports a woman who can then make choices about her time and career. As a small business, it’s financially difficult to provide fully paid long parental leave. So, the very least you can do is provide flexibility when someone comes back. And be visible – if people in the leading roles show that they have children themselves, or care about others’ wellbeing, that goes a long way.
Thank you again.